Friday, April 15, 2011

Marvel Star Wars, in summary

Instead of posting a detailed summary of the remaining editions of the Marvel collections, I'm going to summarize my thoughts on the last three editions together. In general, I think these Marvel comics enjoyed some great writing, especially the last few years, but suffered from poor artwork and inconsistency with the staff. Not all of the artwork was bad, but there were definitely some horrible issues.

But really I read comics for the story first, and for the artwork second. So I still enjoyed reading the comics, especially those by Jo Duffy. When I started a new issue, I first looked to see who was writing and if it was her, I knew I would enjoy the story. I think it also helped that she had a larger story that she was telling in small pieces, instead of making each comic a standalone story. These story arcs allowed you to find out more about the characters and their conflicts.

I enjoyed the new races introduced, like the Tofs and Nagai and even the Hoojibs. Glancing through wookiepedia I see that these races come up in later stories, but I didn't want to look for too long and ruin stories I haven't read yet. I'm glad to see that these interesting story lines aren't completely abandoned.

While some may dislike the Marvel comics because they don't feel like other Star Wars stories, I really enjoyed them for the most part. They are a bit different, some are silly and some are just plain weird, but overall there are some great stories there.

Next I will start into the next era of the Expanded Universe, which begins with Dark Horse's "Dark Empire" and Timothy Zahn's "Heir to the Empire". I've heard both are excellent and can't wait to get started.

Friday, March 4, 2011

17. Fool's Bounty

"Fool's Bounty" is the fifth Dark Horse collection of Marvel comics, this one collecting issues 68 through 81 as well as the third annual. These are some of the most interesting Marvel Star Wars stories that I've read so far. Not only are the stories better, but the art work has improved as well.

What's especially interesting is that they build off the characters in the movies more, adding to the back story of what was seen on screen. The first story is an excellent example of this. We're introduced to Fenn Shysa, a fighter dressed in armor that's remarkably similar to Boba Fett. Shysa explains that he and Fett were part of a group of commandos for the planet Mandalore that fought on the side of the Empire during the Clone Wars. When the war was over, only three of the commandos had survived, and when they return to Mandalore they found their planet had been overrun by slavers. Fett left to become a bounty hunter. Shysa and the other Mandalorian commando, Tobbi Dala, stayed on Mandalore to try to overthrow the Imperially backed slavers. While this is a very interesting back story, unfortunately I don't think it maintains continuity with later stories about Boba Fett's origins.

Regardless, Leia and C-3PO team up with Shysa while looking for the bounty hunter Dengar, who supposedly knows the location of Han Solo. Issues 68 and 69 tell the story of their encounter with Dengar, and their struggle to free the slaves of Mandalore.

Issue 70 has a flashback story featuring Han Solo, Luke, Leia, and Chewbacca visiting the planet Stenos. They have gone their to try to find some missing rebel leaders, but instead stumble upon some people from Han Solo's past. They're looking for the same item the missing rebel leaders were looking for, a ceremonial statue that if found would be of great value to the natives of Stenos, and could be used to persuade them to join the rebellion. But upon finding the statue, the rebel heroes are double crossed by Han's old acquaintances, who have secretly been working with the Empire. However, the Stenax, the natives of Stenos, are aware the statue has been found so they attack the Imperials in an effort to get it back. Han tells them that his old friend has the statue, so the Stenax pursue him instead, allowing the rebel heroes to escape.

Issue 71 follows up on this flashback story, with Lando, Luke, and Chewbacca returning to Stenos looking for Bossk and IG-88 with the hope that they know where Boba Fett took Han Solo. Luke and Lando run into Han's old friends again, who have remained behind on Stenos. Lando finds someone frozen in carbonite, and thinking it's Han, they pursue, only to find out it's one of Han's old friends, Chihdo. Even worse, they've stumbled into a trap set by Bossk and IG-88.

With the help of Chihdo's associates, Dani and Rik, Luke is able to escape in issue 72, but Lando and Dani remain captive. Bossk and IG-88 intend to freeze them, but Chewbacca has aligned with the Stenax and they arrive to rescue Lando and Dani. As they take off, it's revealed that Dani has snuck aboard the Millenium Falcon and will be with them for a while, much to everyone's annoyance.

In issue 73 a lengthy story arc is begun that involves the search for two rebel pilots that have obtained some secrets from the Empire, but then went missing before they could deliver those secrets to the Empire. Luke, Lando, Leia, and Dani have traveled to the planet Lahsbane in their search, but so has the Empire. The diminutive natives of Lahsbane are somewhat helpful, indicating that the pilot went to their forbidden city. Leia and Dani have an argument, with each trying to prove their worth by going to the forbidden city. They find it abandoned of life, but full of treasure. However, they soon realize why it's forbidden. It seems that when the diminutive Lahsbanes mature, they become monstrous Huhk, who occupy the forbidden city. Luckily C-3PO informs Luke, Chewbacca, and Lando where Leia and Dani have gone, and they are able to rescue them. However Dani leaves with the treasure in the Imperial ship, while the rest of the rebel heroes leave in the Millenium Falcon.

I'll need to repost this later with the rest of the stories. This is all I can write right now.

Monday, February 7, 2011

16. Devilworlds

Devilworlds is a set of two comics that reprint various issues of Star Wars that were published by Marvel in the UK but never published in the US. I found these stories to be very interesting, even if they did vary from the normal Star Wars style. Several of these stories were written by Alan Moore, and his stories were the most unique. Some of the stories were just too strange though. Regardless, it's an interesting collection of short stories, although they're generally too odd to be considered as part of the standard Star Wars story.

In Moore's "Dark Lord's Conscience", Darth Vader is challenged by a mutant that can bring people to suicidal despair by forcing them to dwell on their darkest memories. Vader appears to be immune to the mutant's powers, which could be due to the force or could be due to his ability to justify his actions.

Moore also wrote "Tilotny Throws a Shape", which was the strangest Star Wars story I've read to date. It involves a few beings who think they are gods creating the universe, and are confused by the appearance of Leia and some stormtroopers who are chasing her. These supernatural beings inadvertently kill all of them, which makes Leia and the stormtroopers much less interesting. One of the beings, Splendid Ap, is left behind to clean up the mess, but his lack of knowledge regarding time means that while Leia is revived in the same time and place where she died, the stormtroopers are revived several thousand years in the past.

Another interesting story is "The Flight of the Falcon", which describes how Han Solo originally acquired the Millenium Falcon. This story doesn't match up with the story that appears in the Han Solo novels, but it's an interesting story none the less.

"Dark Knight's Devilry" was also entertaining, as it featured a group of people aligned with neither the Empire or the Rebellion. Luke and Leia have gone in search of a device called "The Eternity Crystal", which allegedly has the power to turn back time. The are captured by the Empire, then rescued and held hostage by some local militants, before leaving for Adony Station where the crystal is supposedly kept. But it seems this was simply another elaborate ruse on the part of Darth Vader to kill Luke and Leia.

Next up, I will continue with the Marvel reprints in Fool's Bounty.

Friday, February 4, 2011

15. Escape to Hoth

With "Escape to Hoth", the newspaper strips unfortunately come to an end. These stories have been superior to the Marvel stories and have been fun to read. I will miss them.

One thing I appreciated about "Escape to Hoth" was its attempt to tie into the movies. While these particular strips were actually published after "Empire Strikes Back", they tell the story of the Rebel's arrival on Hoth in flashback, providing background for the opening scene of the movie.

"Escape to Hoth" picks up with the story of Luke and the suspected traitor Vrad Dodonna. Vrad proceeds to carry out his suicide mission, but it is not entirely successful. Although it damages Vader's ship, it does not destroy it. Meanwhile, the rebels are evacuating Yavin IV. As the last ship leaves, they realize that Gen. Dodonna has stayed behind. He has decided to sacrifice himself in order to destroy the Imperial strike force that has been launched to attack the former rebel base.

While the majority of the fleet escapes to Hoth, the Millenium Falcon has dropped out of hyperspace in the wrong place. They land on a jungle planet to make repairs, and while Luke is scouting the area, he stumbles upon the mind witch S'ybil. Luke is able to escape her trap and the Millenium Falcon is able to rejoin the rebellion on Hoth.

Once they arrive, they are immediately dispatched to deal with a ship that has followed them there. Han, Luke, and Chewbacca discover that it is Raskar who has followed them. Raskar is the former pirate from whom the the stole the power gem used by Vrad in his attack on Vader, and it seems that Raskar has been forced to return to pirating now that he is no longer in possession of the power gem. Raskar believes that Han has hidden some treasure on Hoth, so he forces them to return to Hoth to uncover it. As it turns out, Luke has discovered real treasure on Hoth, but it's guarded by a giant dragon slug. They are able to escape, and in the process Luke, Han, and Chewbacca, save Raskar's life. Raskar agrees to release them in exchange for the treasure, but another surprise awaits them.

Raskar has been followed by a group of bounty hunters, including Dengar, Zuckuss, Bossk, and Skorr, the bounty hunter from Ord Mantell. They are working with Boba Fett to bring Han Solo back to Jabba the Hutt. The bounty hunters take the rebels and Raskar to Ord Mantell to deliver Han to Boba and also to deliver Luke to Vader. Since there is no bounty on Raskar, he and his men are left as prisoners in their own ship while the bounty hunters land to collect their reward. Han, Chewbacca, and Luke are able to escape with the help of Reskar, frustrating Boba Fett and Vader. The heroes return to Hoth, and this great series comes to an end.

It was great to see the bounty hunters again, as well as some of the characters that had appeared in earlier comics. The artwork in this series has been great, and the stories have been involved and well developed. The characters have been true to their own screen persona, and there have been a number of original characters introduced. It's too bad that this series wasn't able to continue, but it was fun while it lasted.

Next up we return to the world of Marvel UK, reading the reprints published in "Devilworlds".

Monday, January 31, 2011

14. The Rebel Storm

"The Rebel Storm" is the second volume published by Dark Horse that collects the newspaper strips that were originally published in the early 80's. As with the previous volume, the strips are not cut and paste directly into a trade paperback format, but they are edited and redrawn where necessary to make the story flow better in this format. While in the first volume this completely eliminated any repetition that necessarily appears in newspaper strips, in this volume there was a few times where the repetition was apparent, and it detracted from the flow of the story.

The stories in this volume were not as engaging as the first volume, and they seemed to develop a lot more slowly as well. There was a lack of character depth and development that made the first volume so enjoyable.

The last volume concluded with the Rebel heroes on Aquaris, trying to determine if the leader of Aquaris, Silver Fyre, was sincere in her commitment to the rebellion. When there is an accident involving Luke's underwater skimmer, and it's revealed that one of Silver Fyre's associates is an imperial spy.

The rebels return to Yavin and are caught in a battle where an imperial bomber crashes into the ruins of the ancient Massassi, releasing a monster into the rebel base. The monster has some force ability, and Luke is able to use the force to trick the monster into leaving the planet. This story arc was interesting because of the force ability of the monster, knowing what is revealed about the Massassi in later comics and books.

Following this, Luke is sent on a mission to a desert planet, where he encounters someone who appears to be Obi-Wan Kenobi. Luke is fooled completely, until the person who hired this impostor, Darth Vader, arrives to spring the trap.

The next story arc focuses on Han and Chewbacca and their quest to find a power gem that could be used by the Rebels to destroy the Empire's latest super-weapon. They discover that there is a gladiator contest going on to determine who will get the power gem, but Han devises a plan to trick the former pirate who owns the gem into turning it over to him.

The next story has Luke and C-3P0 on the run from Imperials, and they escape by entering the slipstream of a passing comet, which takes them to the ice planet Hoth. There they find a father and daughter that have lived there for years, only to find out they were androids. Han and Chewbacca arrive to rescue Luke, and they are able to determine that this would be an excellent place for a secret rebel base.

When they leave Hoth and to request the aid of the Mon Calamari, only to find that the Mon Calamari fleet there has been defeated. It appears that some of the Mon Calamari may have escaped to the planet Daluuj. The heroes follow this lead and find the Mon Calamari, but have to tangle with an Imperial presence before they are able to leave.

Vader arrives as they are escaping, and his new ship, The Executor, is involved in a battle with a Republic cruiser. When the heroes return to Yavin, they find a distraught General Dodonna who has received word that his son was killed in battle. Much to the General's relief, his son soon arrives on planet in a battered ship. However, Luke recognizes the ship as one that fled undamaged from the battle, and questions Dodonna's son Vlad about this. Their conversation breaks into a fight, but before it can be resolved Vlad is summoned and assigned the task of taking the gem that Han and Chewbacca obtained and using it to destroy The Executor. Luke volunteers to go with him on this apparent suicide mission, because he doesn't trust Vlad to carry it out.

This story will conclude in "Escape to Hoth", which will be the end of the newspaper reprints. I hope it returns to the form of the previous edition. In general I've enjoyed the newspaper reprints more than the Marvel comics. It's too bad that the Marvel stories seem so shallow compared to the newspaper comics. Maybe that will change after "Return of the Jedi".

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

13. In Deadly Pursuit

"In Deadly Pursuit" is actually the first collection of newspaper strips published by Dark Horse, but it doesn't include the first newspaper strips. The earliest newspaper strips were re-published in Volume 4 of Classic Star Wars, "The Early Adventures". That is why I read volume 4 first and then volume 1. As with the previous Classic Star Wars collection, I was very impressed with this one. In general, the stories are engaging, the characters act the way they did in the movies, and the art is very good. This volume also includes some information on how these Classic Star Wars collections were made. They are not a simple copy of what was published in the newspapers. They have been edited, re-formatted, touched up, and colored. I think that Dark Horse has done a marvelous job in all aspects, and I'm thoroughly enjoying reading through these comics.

There are several story arcs presented in this volume. The first focuses on the bounty hunter from Ord Mantell that Han mentions in "The Empire Strikes Back". First, I appreciate how this medium is used to expand on a topic brought up during the movie. These off hand comments in the movies beg to be developed into full blown stories, and I'm glad they are done in these comics. The story tells how Han was almost captured by this bounty hunter, and shows his narrow escape.

The second story is very interesting because it features a group of Imperial admirals that are plotting the downfall of Darth Vader. They have realized that it is only a matter of time before they fall victim to Vader's choke hold, and have decided to take action. They contact the rebellion for help and Luke is sent on the mission. But things take an unexpected turn when a double agent is revealed. In my opinion, this is one of the best story arcs in any of the comics I've read so far.

Luke is able to escape from the failure of his mission with the help of a shuttle pilot/thief named Tanith. She takes him to her home planet where he and the droids are enslaved along with Tanith and her family. With the help of R2, he is able to overthrow the slavers and rendezvous with Leia who is on a diplomatic mission on the planet Kabal.

Soon after his arrival, Kabal comes under attack from an Imperial armada, but Luke and Leia are rescued by Han and Chewbacca. Upon escape, they are trapped by a disgruntled Imperial scientist who has decided that they need to die with him since it is the fault of the Rebellion that he has suffered radiation poisoning.

Our heroes once again escape, but are then sent to the planet Aquaris, since Leia has recently reached an agreement with the leader of Aquaris, Silver Fyre, that Aquaris will join the rebellion. Han has his doubts however, because he knows Silver is a double crossing smuggler. The collection ends here, with the story to be picked up in the next volume.

Here is the collection described above: